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Petshop of Love

Where else but in anime would reincarnated pets return to their master as beautiful young women?

by Patrick King

Before I popped into the world, my parents got a puppy they named Natasha. They raised her before they raised me, and when I finally came around in 1979, she was there to welcome me into the family as much as everyone else. She was an intelligent and fiercely protective friend, and of all the canine companions I've had over the years, Tasha remains the best.

She died of old age, peacefully and in her sleep, when I was 6. Even now, almost two decades later, I miss her terribly. She was my first encounter with death, and while I've learned to handle it with more maturity and understanding as I've aged, coping with death remains one of the hardest experiences any human must endure.

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Some people don't understand how losing a pet can have such an impact on a person, but when you've spent every day of your life with a companion of any sort, there's always a chance they'll take a part of you when they leave.

Goro Mutsumi, the starring character of Angel Tales, most likely would agree with me. He's a young man trying to enter the work force in Japan's rough economic climate, and while he currently doesn't have time for a pet - or a girlfriend - he still recalls every animal that's ever been a part of his life, however brief.

From the goldfish he had as a kid to the fox he helped while visiting the countryside, each non-human friend he made throughout his life played a large role in his childhood.

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Sadly, none remain alive at this point in Goro's life. And then, he meets a spooky yet attractive fortune teller who informs him that his luck is about to turn around.

The next day, when he wakes up, he is taken aback by the presence of three young women in his apartment. He's even more surprised when they claim that they're there to serve him in whatever capacity he desires. While he's a lonely, womanless guy, he rejects the girls' offer, though I'm not sure if he does so because their interest in him is too good to be true, or if he has ethical qualms about having the girls do "whatever he wants", or if there's some part of his brain that's simply not functioning. No matter the cause, he tells them "thanks, but no thanks." Only when I watched it, it was in Japanese. But you get the gist.

However, the ladies aren't so easily dissuaded. Determined to help him, they follow him around the city with all the subtlety of a camouflaged school bus.

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Mutsumi slowly becomes more and more annoyed by the girls' inexplicable behavior, and eventually, he just tells them to buzz off. Again, it's not that he has anything against cute girls, but when they shadow him around all day like little lost puppies, it gets on his nerves. After telling them to leave him alone, he heads back up to his apartment, leaving the girls on the street, distraught.

As it turns out, Goro is a little sad himself, and he picks up his harmonica and plays a tune he's known since his childhood. And that's when we find out where, exactly, these girls came from.

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All three of them, Ran, Tsubasa, and Kurumi, are the human reincarnation of three pets Goro once took care of. Ran was a goldfish, Tsubasa a parakeet, and Kurumi a hungry little hamster. As luck would have it, a kind higher power decided to provide Goro with some aid, though I'm not sure what kind of romantic opportunities reincarnated pets present to their former master.

Now, I've lost my fair share of pets over the years. But Goro has enough, it seems, to fill his entire apartment and then some. The first trio that appear - Ran, Tsubasa, and Kurumi - aren't able to easily make Goro's life any better, so reinforcements are sent in, two at a time. By the end of the fourth episode, Goro is also living with Mika the rabbit, Ayumi the turtle, Akane the fox, Tamami the cat, and Nana the dog.

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Naturally, each of these former pets is female, and as humans, they're young and attractive. Go figure.

Angel Tales is an interesting spin on the harem comedy formula, as Goro isn't necessarily attracted to the girls. They adore him, calling him "Master," but they do so habitually. After all, he was the sole being responsible for their life before they were made into humans. Their goal, however, is to improve his life. It's true that many of them (if not all) have a crush on him, but they all try to put his needs before their own. Of course, since this is a harem comedy, that doesn't always work as well as they plan.

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There are times that I feel that Tasha is still with me. Whenever I avoid danger by means of dumb luck, my thoughts turn to my childhood protector. I can't in good faith say that I believe that the spirits of animals come back from the grave to help their masters - who really weren't that great to them all the time. Yet that doesn't mean that I'm not reminded of the comfort and warmth I felt when Tasha was still around. And in that sense, she really is still there for me and she will be always. I don't need her to reappear in human form for me to feel comforted by her - just the memory of a simpler, more innocent time in my life.

When Goro's past pets (you can also say "passed pets" if you want someone to hit you for making a bad, tasteless pun) come back into his life, he is given an unusual boon for his kind treatment of the animals in the past. Sometimes, even as humans, he ends up comforting and reassuring them once again, but with such a large, cute support group, there's a good chance his luck will keep improving as the series progresses. As a fellow former pet owner, I can't help but root for the guy.

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